Arizona Basketball

Notebook: Arizona Wildcats survive to Elite Eight rematch with Wisconsin



Rondae Hollis-Jefferson overcame a scary twisted left knee in the first and came on strong on the defensive end with two of his three steals in the second half (Arizona Wildcats YouTube video screen shot).

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Sean Miller had his game face going before tipoff (TBS screen shot)

Sean Miller had his game face going before tipoff (TBS screen shot)

Random thoughts about Arizona advancing to the Elite Eight while wondering if the game between two 34-3 giants — Arizona and Wisconsin — should be next weekend at Indianapolis in the Final Four instead of Saturday in Los Angeles …

Sean Miller will coach in his fourth Elite Eight in 11 years as a head coach and his third in six years with the Wildcats. Fred Snowden lost in his only trip to the Elite Eight at UCLA in 1976. Lute Olson coached Arizona to seven Elite Eights and won four of them, although he lost in his last two trips against Kansas (2003) and Illinois (2005).

— That means Arizona will try to break its four-game Elite Eight losing streak when it plays the Badgers Saturday at the Staples Center. The Wildcats lost to Connecticut in 2011 and Wisconsin last year. The combined margin in the losses to Kansas, Illinois, Connecticut and Wisconsin? Seven points. Arizona lost by one in overtime to Wisconsin and Illinois. Instead of four Final Four appearances, Arizona is a handful of baskets away from eight and counting.

— Arizona’s victory over Xavier was reminiscent of the Wildcats’ grind-it-out wins against UCLA twice this season. The Bruins led in both games until remarkably the 9:35 and 9:32 marks in each and never regained the lead in 57-47 and 70-64 setbacks. Xavier led until 6:11 remained tonight and never again went on top as the Wildcats pulled away.

— The Musketeers’ center Matt Stainbrook had 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field in the first half. Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski had only two points on 1-of-5 shooting. In the second half, Stainbrook took only three shots, making one, and scored scored only seven points. He scored only one point in the last 11:41. Tarczewski, meanwhile, came on strong with 10 points in the second half and made all six of his free throw attempts. Tarczewski finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He was the impetus of Arizona grinding it out.


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Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:

Note: First four levels listed as “games” because 1975-76 team participated in 32-team NCAA tournament bracket. Its Elite Eight game was its third game of the tournament.

First game: 20-13 (.606)

Second game: 17-3 (.850)

Third game: 10-7 (.588)

Fourth game: 4-5 (.444)

Final Four: 2-2 (.500)

Championship: 1-1 (.500)

Total: 54-31 (.635)


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— Arizona made 17 of its 19 free-throw attempts and is shooting 87 percent (61 of 70) from there in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats’ percentage of 89.5 percent from the line tonight is the fifth best performance in the NCAA tournament in the program’s history.

— The rally cry for Arizona since last March’s overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight centers around … the loss to Wisconsin last March. Miller made that obvious in his postgame interview with TBS’s Rachel Nichols. “We had the summer to think about it,” Miller said. “We have to make that to our advantage.” Nick Johnson’s profile picture on Twitter since the loss to Wisconsin, one in which he was whistled for a questionable charging call with 3.2 seconds left, remains a snapshot of him consoled by Brandon Ashley while Wisconsin celebrated in the background. Yes, the Wildcats still have a bad taste in their mouths since that loss.

— Despite being a No. 2 seed against a No. 1 in Wisconsin, Arizona opened as a 1.5-point favorite against the Badgers late tonight.

— Xavier outscored Arizona in the paint 34-18 and the Wildcats’ bench was outscored 22-14. Arizona won by intensifying its defense late, especially at the post, and limiting the Musketeers’ second looks with improved rebounding as the game went on. Arizona outscored Xavier 13-8 in second-chance points.

— Arizona emerged victorious despite scoring only two fast-break points. Arizona attempted a season-high 22 three-point shots made seven with McConnell making the biggest one with 4:18 remaining to give the Wildcats a 58-54 lead.

— Miller can breathe a sigh of relief getting past Xavier, his former school. His former top assistant, Chris Mack, can return to supporting his good friend. “They have a very good chance to win the national championship,” Mack said in the postgame press conference.

— Miller is the fifth coach in the Sweet 16 to face his former team that he once coached in the NCAA tournament. The record in that scenario now stands at 4-1 with the former coaches winning four straight. Olson is one of them, topping Iowa in the 1988 Sweet 16. Here are the results:

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1. T.J. McConnell (2014-present) 3.06 (435/142)
2. Steve Kerr (1984-88) 2.64 (443/168)
3. Matt Muehlebach (1988-91) 2.20 (458/208)
4. Matt Othick (1989-92) 2.18 (552/253)
5. Mike Bibby (1997-98) 2.12 (377/178)


1. Russell Brown (1978-79) 247
2. T.J. McConnell (2014-15) 233
3. Reggie Geary (1995-96) 231
4. Damon Stoudamire (1994-95) 220
5. Mustafa Shakur (2006-07) 215


1. Mike Bibby (1997-98) 87
2. Jason Terry (1996-97) 85
3. Hassan Adams (2005-06) 82
4. T.J. McConnell (2014-15) 81
5. Jason Terry (1998-99) 80

[/ezcol_1half_end] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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